Ep Thompson Essay, Research Paper
Everyday in society, somebody is challenging something. Everyone believes that they can make a difference. This manner of critical thinking allows for lifestyles to be altered on a regular basis. Much of this is caused by the creation of countercultures that oppose the so-called ?norm? or popular culture. In the past, such people have been labeled revolutionary or enlightened thinkers. In E.P. Thompson?s book, The Making of the English Working Class, he focuses on how these enlightened thinkers came to be. He discusses the argument of democracy, religion and economic status. These three elements discussed in the first part of the book titled ?The Liberty Tree? are ideas in a theory known as industrialism.
The book begins with an introduction to the hostility between the working class and the voting class. By the end of the first chapter the reader is aware that groups of enlightened thinkers are forming and wish to see a democracy within England. Following the works of Cromwell, literary working class males create organizations to fight for their right to vote. As groups such as these began to spread throughout Europe, new sects of freethinking individuals emerged. These groups were originally called Levellers in early years but slowly advanced to a broader term, namely, enlightened thinkers. This transformation in names occurred over a century starting with the Levellers in late 1640?s and advancing to enlighten thinkers in the late 1790?s. These new groups along with the groups who wished for democratic rights began to publicly spread their views, allowing for enlightenment to spread throughout the country and eventually into the Church, which had been closely tied in with the government. This expand of ?enlightenment? occurred rapidly in the mid 1790?s after the French revolution and the publication of Thomas Paine?s pamphlet ?The Rights of Man?. The rise occurred due to a trial against Henry Yorke a reformer from Sheffield. His defence was based on describing Paine?s pamphlet wherein he stated that there was no Constitution in England.
Thompson begins his second major point by discussing the turmoil between the various religions. This argument can best be looked at by examining two social groups: the members of the Church of England and the Dissenters. The Dissenters were considered non-conformists. They wished to practice their own religion, one separate from government. People in these groups were considered by their peers to be enlightened thinkers, while outsiders, such as members of the Church of England, would considered them rebellious. Labeled rebels by the church they were subsequently condemned by the government and stripped of various civil rights. Examples were debarment from the government, law or military.
By creating their own religion, ordinary working class people learned basic organizational skills needed to help create a democracy in the future. The effect of these groups on the government was the imposition of fear, because now simple people were starting to resist conformity. These enlightened thinkers along with the influence of the French Revolution could potentially cause the Monarchy to lose supreme influence.
During the era of enlightenment, economic culture had not yet been established. A system of free market was being enacted, however this was only beneficial to the upper class. Like the government, this economy was in need of reform. Enlightened thinkers once again began to preach change. With all the protest being spread throughout the country, there was worry that these groups might begin to revolt. An additional concern came with the word that Jacobin groups in France had overthrown the King. The existing economy was not working for the working class, which made up ninety-eight percent of the population and the King was aware of this.
The artisans or working class wished to implement a new economy. They wished to allow prices to fluctuate based on what they could afford to pay, rather than supply and demand. This idea was quickly crushed since the wealthy realized they made less money. The only connection that the working class had to the wealthy was the ?Quakers?, a group that belonged to the working class but was beginning to accumulate wealth by creating factories. Higher income encouraged them to strive for equality between themselves and the wealthy. They were the quite, but apparent and successful uproar of the working class.
The first section of E.P Thompson?s book explains through three distinct arguments that the people of England were ready for change. By collectively creating groups that argued the principles of the current government at hand, they proved their ability to organize themselves and to create a democratic system that would serve as the building blocks for modern government.
Thompson, E.P. (1963). The Making of the English Working Class. London, England: Penguin Books.